Posts Tagged ‘Low-density lipoprotein’

English: Cacao (Theobroma cacao) Español: Plan...

English: Cacao (Theobroma cacao) Español: Planta de Cacao (Theobroma cacao) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s exciting news for chocolate lovers. New studies have found more health benefits from chocolate.

This decadent food comes from cacao (or cocoa) beans. Actually, they aren’t beans but seeds from the theobroma cacao tree. The name Theobroma originated from the Greek “food of the gods”—theos meaning “god” and broma meaning “food.” Few would disagree that tasty chocolate morsels fit that definition. Unlike many fruits and seeds, cacao grows along the tree trunk. Once harvested, seeds are fermented, dried, roasted, and milled to produce chocolate liquor.

Health benefits of chocolate come from flavanols, one of several well-known antioxidants. Chocolate, like other foods with high flavanol levels, seems to lessen risks of cardiovascular (heart) disease. Likewise, it lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol and increases HDL (good) cholesterol. Chocolate influences other health conditions which may or may not relate to heart disease.

  • Cognitive function: By the age of seventy, 6% of older adults have developed mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Those with MCI who are otherwise in good health may benefit from chocolate. Three groups of elderly participants consumed drinks with 990 milligrams (mg), 520 mg, and 45 mg of cocoa flavanols daily for eight weeks. The two groups who consumed drinks with more antioxidants seemed to think faster, respond more rapidly to questions, and demonstrate better verbal fluency. Additionally, they showed improvement in insulin resistance and blood pressure.  Results could be directly from flavanols in cocoa or as a secondary effect related to better cardiovascular function.
  • Blood Pressure: Healthy people who used approximately 100 grams daily of chocolate or cocoa experienced a drop in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Flavanol promoted vasodilation and thus reduced blood pressure.
  • Stroke: In a ten-year study, men who ate high levels of chocolate had a lower risk of stroke. Typically, the subjects ate the equivalent of one-third cup of chocolate chips each week. Those who ate chocolate had a 17% lower risk of stroke than those who avoided it.

Is chocolate a panacea? Chocolate can be part of a healthy diet for those of appropriate weight. For the overweight and obese, increased amounts of chocolate may aggravate weight problems since foods with chocolate tend to be higher in fat, sugar, and calories. Other foods with high flavanol content may be better choices for the weight conscious, but who wants to choose broccoli over chocolate? Indulge your taste buds occasionally with chocolate but stay mindful of the calories.

Additional information on these studies can be found at:




Read Full Post »

In a healthy diet, all foods are acceptable within a moderate range. Today, however, Americans consume too much salt, fat—especially solid fat, added sugar, and refined grain. We readily acquire tastes for salty, fatty, and/or sweet foods. In moderation that’s not a problem, but excess may cause weight problems or compromise health.

Americans consume an estimated 3,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. Current Dietary Guidelines recommend no more than 2,300 mg/day for healthy adolescents and adults. Those with high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, over the age of fifty-one, or of African-American decent should ingest no more than 1,500 mg daily. High sodium intake may cause high blood pressure and increase risks for cardiovascular disease.

Prepared foods are a primary source of sodium in the diet. Major contributors in order of amounts include yeast breads, chicken/chicken mixed dishes, pizza, pasta/pasta dishes, cold cuts, condiments, and tortillas/burritos/tacos. Other sources high in sodium are sausage/franks/bacon and regular cheese.

Fats, an important component in the diet, contain essential fatty acids and help in the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K. Fats provide more than twice the number of calories per gram as do carbohydrates or proteins. The type of fatty acid consumed, saturated, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated, has a greater impact on cardiovascular health than does total fat.

With the exception of palm and coconut oil, saturated fatty acids (SFA) are usually solid at room temperature and come primarily from animal sources. SFA increase levels of blood-cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins (LDL) which may contribute to heart disease. All fatty acids contain the same amount of calories, but monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids may decrease health risks while SFA may increase them. Sources of monounsaturated fatty acids include olive, canola, and safflower oils. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are prevalent in soybean, cottonseed, and corn oils.

Sugars are natural components of many plant foods. Added sugars include high-fructose corn syrup, white and brown sugar, syrups, and others. Americans primarily consume added sugars in colas/energy/sports drinks, grain-based desserts, sugar-sweetened fruit drinks, dairy-based desserts, and candy.

Excess quantities of fats and added sugars may result in weight gain and a less nutritious diet. Suggestions for limiting these two food components include:

  • Focus on nutrient-dense foods in all categories.
  • Reduce the amount of fats (trim meats, etc) and sugars when cooking at home.
  • Eat smaller food portions of foods high in fat and sugar.

In addition to excessive salt, solid fats, and added sugars, refined grains are less desirable in a healthy diet than whole grains. Refined grains, even though enriched with vitamins and minerals, fail to provide needed fiber. The Dietary Guidelines recommend consumers replace at least half of refined grains in the diet with whole grains.

There are no bad foods, but excessive sodium, solid fats, added sugars, or refined grains tend to limit intake of more nutrient-dense foods. Look at your diet and see is you make wise choices.                                    

 Source: http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/DGAs2010-PolicyDocument.htm, Chapter 3.

Read Full Post »